A Conversation with… Shannon Lee

This week A Conversation with… reaches out to one of our first Women in Games Scholarship winners, and an alumni from our 16th graduating class, Shannon Lee.

 

  •  Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
    I’m currently working at BigPark Studios (Microsoft) as a Senior User Experience designer.

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A Conversation with… Mark Barazzuol

We’re back with another edition of A Conversation with… This time we had a chat with Mark Barazzuol from our 5th graduating class.

 

  • Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry

I’m teaching game design at Guru Digital Arts in Edmonton.  I’m also working on mobile games on the side, and I do game design consulting for others as well.

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Grad Night for the 35th class of Game Design

Summer is finally here, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on August 21st has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a congratulatory speech from the Head of Game Design Dave Warfield, then the student-elected class speaker Jamie Thompson took us through an emotion filled story of the past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Paul Jensen closed the speeches with his insights into the members of this graduating class.

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Marlon, Dustin, Mark and Dylan, all who graduated with honours.

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Job Hunting 101 with East Side Games

For those who weren’t able to make it out to East Side Games’ talk about Job Hunting 101, here is a quick summary of the talk! I’d also like to extend a humble thank you to Josh, Kay, Jordan, Josh (yes, 2 of them) and Susan for coming out and offering your advice! It was very much appreciated.

Kicking the presentation off with pizza from Uncle Fatih’s graciously provided by East Side Games and the large turnout of students, the 5 speakers introduced themselves and some of their most important pieces of advice when seeking out a job. By far the largest take away from their talk was the importance of NETWORKING!!

One of the best ways to accomplish this is going out to local meet up events and just speaking with the people there! One such example is the Full Indie Summit this Saturday (August 9th) where many game companies in town will be out, as well as after parties, one of such being hosted by East Side Games themselves!

Another important point, is knowing the company, knowing their games, and playing them! It was heavily emphasized that there is more to talk about in the application process if you know the company and games, as well as showing your passion and hustle. In the games industry, being able to work hard is a strong trait that is valued from prospective companies.

It’s also important to ask, “Not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company.” This has importance in not only making sure that you are valuable for your company, but you are to make a more lasting impression if you are able to adapt what you do to best suit the company’s needs, sometimes even changing job roles.

Ultimately, it’s also valuable to be professional, but be yourself. Because it’s important that you are able to fit in with the companies culture and get along with everyone there. Which includes 6 valuable words from Josh, “Leave your ego at the door”.

Although this is just a summary, hopefully the wise words of East Side Games is able to help you out when looking for your first or next job!


Westley Bassett is a TA at VFS and an alumni of the Game Design program

Hat Jam 5: July 4th ‘Murica Edition

July 4th, 1776. America declares independence from Great Britain. July 4th, 2014. Thirty-six caffeinated jammers band together over 48-hours to create nine amazing games.

Sponsored by local eateries, Fresh Bowl and Scent of a Sandwich, Hat Jam 5 was an amazingly smooth game jam. On Friday, at 5.30pm, the participants gathered in the TV studio to draw their themes out of a hat (all movies related to July 4th). They then had 48-hours with which to create their games from start to finish.

             

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Project Management Internship @ Demonware

It’s crazy how fast a year can fly by when you’re busy learning about game mechanics, design theory and of course, modelling your own 3D octopus. And even though I can hardly believe it, I find myself working in the industry as a Project Manager Intern at Demonware.

For readers that may not know what Demonware is or what they do, here is a quick backgrounder for you: Demonware is a subsidiary company of Activision Blizzard that provides game studios online software and services so that they can focus on creating great gameplay experiences. In the meanwhile, Demonware works to make all of the multiplayer magic – matchmaking, leaderboards and game lobbies – happen behind-the-scenes. Some of the titles that Demonware supports are arguably the most anticipated games to come out this year - Destiny and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

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GD34 Graduation & Awards Show

Summer is finally here, and once again the Game Design program has a reason to celebrate. It’s graduation night, a night to celebrate, to look back on the year, and recognize the amazing things they have done.

The Graduation and Awards show on June 27th has a mix of parts: one part formal, and one part fun. The formal part of the evening hosted by Tanya Jensenbegan with a congratulatory speech from the Head of Game Design Dave Warfield, then the student-elected class speaker Daniel Garma took us back through a timeline of  this past year in Game Design, and finally student selected Instructor speaker Calder Archinuk closed the speeches with an overview of the 34 iterations of his grad speech.

 

 

Each of the speakers had some deep insight into what they had just been through, and how to prepare for the coming months, but mostly it was a chance to look back on the year, and look ahead to the bright future this class has. The formalities continued with the handing out of diplomas and the embarrassingly long handshakes that make up that portion of the evening. Congratulations to Guerric, Nicha, Jeremy, Rafe, Jakobsen, Spencer, and Jaymee, all who graduated with honours.

 
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Post-Mortem: Misorderly [VFS Student Project]

GD34_Misorderly_AB

Introduction

It’s difficult to explain anything that went right with our project without first explaining everything that went wrong. So for this post-mortem, I’ll be examining the major obstacles we faced in creating the casual action runner that is Misorderly – and what it took to overcome them. I should mention that all points raised here relate to soft skills – design, project management – so if you’re looking for a technical post-mortem, this isn’t it.

Problem 1: Mixed Vision

Misorderly wasn’t our first idea. Originally, our favourite concept was a god game where tiny people wandered around a rubik’s cube planet and each square was a different land form that evolved depending on the other land forms it touched. But at the time, the teachers felt it was more of a toy, than an actual game, so we shelved that idea.

All the other ideas we came up with, only most, and not all of the team loved. And at VFS (Vancouver Film School), you’re encouraged to only go forth with an idea for your final project if everybody loves it. So if I were to go back even further, I’d offer the notion that something that was done incorrectly in our class was team forming. Each person on our team had such different player preferences. To the extent where one of our teaching assistants, Brant Stutheit, suggested that we do an activity where we write down our top 5 favourite games and see which ones we had in common. It took us until our top 20 games to eventually reach consensus – Bioware’s Dragon Age series. We then explored what it was about the series that we enjoyed, and we realized we all liked playing as mages. This was the beginning of Misorderly.

We decided to make a game centered on being a mage. So we brainstormed what we each enjoyed about playing as a mage – healing, buffs, spells, support – and we deduced our mage would need a party. But given the scope of 5 months and 5 relatively inexperienced students – how could we manage to capture the essence of the RPGs we loved?

Suggestions were made for things we thought would make our lives easier in production, such as a side-scrolling camera to reduce environment art assets needed. Or a cartoony art style over hyperrealism, to invest in creating more characters versus polishing a fewer number. Or restricted, grid-based movement, to simplify combat. But not everyone was ecstatic about these changes in direction.

Everything I’ve mentioned thus far formed the basis for the mixed vision we had for the majority of production. We were so concerned with placating everybody’s wants that we A) wasted a lot of time in pre-production changing our game concept and B) ended up with a “swamp water” game concept that had too broad of a target audience (not that we were able to accurate pin point what our genre or expected player experience was for the longest time).

Menu Screen

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Brian Wood Memorial Internship goes to Guerric Haché

Congratulations to soon-to-graduate VFS Game Design student Guerric Haché (pictured here with Kelly Gies of Relic Entertainment/Sega)! Guerric was selected for the Brian Wood Memorial Internship with Relic Games!

The Brian Wood Memorial Internship was founded by VFS Game Design and Relic Games in memory of the late Brian Wood, who was Relic’s Company of Heroes Online lead designer. Three Game Design students a year are offered the scholarship for a period of four months. The inaugural internship was awarded in February 2011, to Zach Williams. Other recent winners have included: Andres MolinaMaxwell Hannaman, Isaac Calon, Alex Mueller, Carolina Mastretta, Andy Fedorchuk, and James Dodge.

Guerric Haché, our second winner for 2014, will graduate from the Game Design program on June 26, 2014. His graduating game project, Misorderly, which he developed in collaboration with fellow students Jaymee Mak, Jeremy Katsumata, and Keegan Myra can be found here on the Arcade Games page.

 

Lucidity


Calling all gamers!

We started this journey back in August 2013, and what a year it’s been so far!
GD35 is currently in term five and alpha is fast approaching. I am Jamie Thompson, and I am fortunate to be a part of team Lucidity along with Blake Vetter, Cam Hickey, Dustin Williamson and Matt Holland.  Last term we formed our group and started the pre-production phase filled with meetings, brainstorming sessions and a lot of trial and error.  Since coming up with Lucidity it’s been nothing but onward and upward!

Lucidity is a third person 3D twitch puzzle platformer for PC.  Player’s traverse through the mind of coma patient, Gracie Wylde, who is undergoing unconscious hypnosis.  Players are able to mirror jump between two worlds while interacting with their environments as they explore the five stages of grief inside Gracie’s subconscious.  The player can run, jump and wall run/jump.  Through actions of fast paced platforming and light puzzle solving, the mind can be fully explored and a final state of reality can be decided.

 

Production started early last month. Although we have learned so much since starting back in August, I feel as though the real nitty gritty nature of game development truly started being learned in May.  Entering the unknown has been overwhelming at times, but for the most part this has been a very exciting experience.  It has been amazing to see our ideas come to life on the screen.

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